The Voice of the Natives
The Voice of the Natives
The Canadian North and Alaska
9 X 12 inches, 208 pages
123 colour photographs, 40 b&w archival
"ARE YOU FINISHED, WHITE MAN?
I am speaking."
On hearing those words spoken by an elder woman of the Ksan Indian village near Hazelton, B.C., in 1977, a humbled photographer, Hans-Ludwig Blohm, hastened upon a decades long quest. He has made over thirty trips—in all seasons, by car, boat, and aircraft across the Canadian North and Alaska—to glimpse the soul of the people of the North and the breathtaking land that is their home.
The Voice of the Natives is the culmination of those travels where he earned the trust of the Northerners—a number of whom have contributed their own writings to this remarkable book.
Besides the many Natives who speak through Hans Blohm's colour photographs, this book presents the words of John Amagoalik, the father of Nunavut; Alootook Ipellie, poet, graphic artist, and former editor of Inuit Today magazine; the late Armand Tagoona, an ordained Anglican priest who later renounced Christianity; Charlie Snowshoe, Caribou hunter and former Gwich'in Indian Chief from Fort MacPherson; Barnabas Pirjuaq, respected elder of Baker Lake; Zebedee Nungak, of Kangirsuk, Nunavik, once Chair of the Inuit Justice Task Force and now a freelance writer; Pita Aatami, President of Makivik Corporation in Nunavik; Paul Quassa, long time leader for Nunavut Tungavik Incorporated; and Nellie Cournoyea, former Premier of the Northwest Territories.
Unblinkingly, they have chronicled the staggering changes brought to their way of life by the foreign rule of a white colonial government and by global realities of the twentieth century. Their contemporary words are juxtaposed with black and white archival photographs, retaining their original captions, so we are ever-reminded of how the Inuit were initially perceived by the Qallunaat, or white people, who brought devastating change to the North.
Along with Hans Blohm's own essays, there is a letter exchange between Hans L. Blohm and Senior Justice J.E. Richard of the Supreme Court, N.W.T., and an essay by Claus-M Naske, a professor of History at the University of Alaska, that provide insight into the judicial and political history of the North.
Though the recent socio-political terrain has proved a challenge more daunting than the beautiful but unforgiving land on which their ancestors have lived harmoniously for centuries, these Inuit have carried a torch through the cultural white-out their people have endured. They have given voice to a necessary vision of governance in the North, with its ever-so fragile ecosystems—a vision from which we, at the dawn of the twentieth-first century, can all take inspiration.
For Hans Blohm, this is the achievement of a dream. Although he started by looking in, this landmark book features the Inuit looking out—it is really their vision, their voice.
"...those pictures? I can never understand how anyone can look at that land and not want to go there..."
—Peter Gzowski, The Globe and Mail, December 1, 2001
Hans Blohm is a well-known cultural photographer and is the author or co-author of more than ten books (most notably with David Suzuki, Rudi Haas, and Claus M. Naske). His internationally-lauded photographs span worlds: from urban architecture, to the microsopic cities within a silicon chip, to the living mythos of the Arctic. He has travelled in all parts of the North for many years, in all seasons, and under all conditions. He is a resident of Ottawa, Canada.